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Summer services begin at 9:30 a.m.
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Monday, July 2, 2012

Migration and Faith

During the summer, services at First Parish are less formal and begin at 9:30 in the Upper Parish Hall. I began the season with a service entitled Migration and Faith. Prior to moving to Bridgewater in 1997, we had spent seven years along the U.S.-Mexico border, first in Tucson, Arizona and then in Pharr, Texas. That experience living, working, studying and teaching deep in the Borderlands has shaped how I view the topic of immigration, legal or otherwise.

No More Deaths is a Ministry of UUCT
and other religious congregations in Tucson
Much of this morning's discussion was inspired by the work of our previous congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, of which we were very active members from 1990 to 1994. Prior to that time, it had been a leader in the Sanctuary Movement to protect political refugees from Central America. About a decade after we left, the church once again rose to challenge of justice, this time getting very directly involved in saving the lives of migrants crossing into the deadly conditions of the Sonoran Desert. In both cases, UUs in Tucson have worked closely with members of other faith communities in the region, applying their faith in ways that eventually garnered national attention -- both positive and negative.

UUCT's ministry in this area is the starkly-named No More Deaths, which is a humanitarian response to the 5,000 deaths that have occurred in the desert near Tucson since 2004. The most emblematic part of this effort are the "arks" that simply leave water and basic supplies along the routes followed by migrants who are avoiding the border defenses. As I mentioned on my own blog when this movement started gaining attention from law enforcement, those placing the water bottles and other aid were charged with littering. Readers interested in my other writings on the subject can peruse migration on Environmental Geography and especially a new post on asylum for drug-war refugees.

In large part because of the leadership of the Tucson church, the UUA held its most recent General Assembly -- called Justice General Assembly -- in Phoenix. This was a bold choice for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that many organizations routinely boycott Arizona as a way of applying pressure on a variety of issues. When we lived there, such efforts were responsible, for example, for bringing a Martin Luther King holiday to the state. When UUA came to Arizona, therefore, it did so overtly as a witness for justice, and included a vigil and visit to the infamous Tent City in Maricopa County. Visit to see very informative coverage of the human-rights situation in Arizona, and the response of our denomination to it. Even more encouraging, in my view, is the cooperation with Church of Christ and National Baptist congregants and ministers.

During the discussion, I mentioned the relationship between coffee and migration several times (my work on this includes avian migration, which is also importantly related). I have covered the subject on my coffee web pages, which include a link to a tragic story of migrants who died as a direct result of the poor treatment of workers in the production of commodity coffee. I mentioned that the coffee I brought to the presentation actually helps to sustain people in their communities in Honduras. Agua de Vida coffee from Dean's Beans is organic, so it helps to keep communities healthy; it is genuine fair-trade, so it helps to keep workers employed with dignity; and it is part of a special promotion to support clean water projects in the communities in which it is grown.

For those who were wondering how I prepared it, I ground it fresh the evening before, and brewed it at slightly stronger than usual strength in a drip grinder (see my coffee care page for more details on both of these factors). I then let it cool to room temperature before closing in and putting in the refrigerator overnight. In this way, it was not diluted very much by the addition of ice when serving.